Many of the Volkswagen Group's brands make models that compete in the same segment, but the Transporter has avoided internal competition for decades. What if that changed when the next generation arrives in 2021? Škoda designer Daniel Hájek imagined what a Transporter-based van inspired by the classic 1203 could look like.
Czech Republic-based Škoda hasn't sold a van in years, but its heritage in the segment is significant. Launched in 1968, the 1203 (shown at the end of our gallery) was an extremely common sight in Czechoslovakia because its people- and cargo-carrying variants performed nearly every task imaginable. Some took kids to school, while others worked as ambulances. Many were used by construction companies, thousands delivered anything from milk to beer, and a handful were converted into camping rigs. It's the latter configuration that Hájek retained.
His 1203 concept exists only in sketches, so its specifications are purely theoretical. He noted that he started with a Volkswagen Transporter platform, meaning power comes from a time-tested turbodiesel four-cylinder engine, but he pointed out making an electric model is possible. We know that Volkswagen's modular MEB platform can underpin a big van, because it's the architecture that will be found under the production version of the ID.Buzz.
Giving the van a retro design would have been too easy.
"I wanted it to be clear that this is the same vehicle, but I didn't want it to be too obviously retro. I designed a modern vehicle that pays homage to the legend," he explained. Instead of round headlights, the design study's front end wears an LED light bar with hemisphere-shaped accents that echo the original van. The overall proportions are markedly different, because the new model has less of a cab-forward look than the old one.
He made the roof noticeably narrower than the body to create another visual link between the two 1203s, but the Transporter-derived platform gives the concept enough interior space to be comfortably used as a camper. The entire roof panel pops up, Westfalia-style, to create a sleeping quarter big enough for two adults.
Hájek intentionally gave the 1203 concept a simple, back-to-the-basics dashboard. It doesn't even have an infotainment system. Instead, the driver uses a smartphone or a tablet to get information about the van and its surroundings, like navigation directions, and to play tunes while road-tripping. He added that the speedometer is displayed on a small digital instrument cluster positioned horizontally behind the two-spoke steering wheel, and that he could create an application to replace the infotainment software if users request it.
Nothing suggests the modern-day 1203 will be built, let alone approved for production. It's merely a neat design study that illustrates what goes through the mind of the folks creating Škoda's next-generation models.